Wings lose, Howard pulled from second straight game

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Winnipeg, Manitoba — This was not the way the Red Wings wanted to end a road trip.

Not by any stretch of the imagination, but the final score, a 4-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, pretty much summed up the evening.

Goalie Jimmy Howard allowed four goals on 14 shots and was pulled for the second consecutive game, possibly signaling a shift in the Red Wings’ net.

The Red Wings power play went 1-for-6, including doing nothing with a four-minute power play 50 seconds into the game (Henrik Zetterberg was high-sticked), a power play on which Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba (Rochester/Michigan) scored a shorthanded goal.

BOX SCORE: Jets 4, Red Wings 1

The offense dried up these last two games — scoring once in each game — both losses, and a need for more offense.

In all, the Red Wings are coming home for their annual New Year’s Eve game Thursday in need of a victory.

“This is the way it goes sometimes,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “You have tough days in life and today was a tough day for our team. We’ll have to rebound here.”

Pavel Datsyuk scored a power-play goal early in the third period, his fifth goal and second in two games, to briefly infuse some hope, but the Red Wings (18-12-7) couldn’t mount anything after.

The biggest question in the short term might be the goaltending.

Petr Mrazek replaced Howard and stopped all 11 shots he faced and the key question now is, will coach Blashill set aside the alternating rotation he has essentially used this season and give Mrazek a larger share of games?

Howard has allowed seven goals on 20 shots over his last two games and hasn’t won since Dec. 3, when the Red Wings defeated Arizona.

“You just have to continue to grind,” Blashill said. “I’m not worried about Jimmy, he’ll be just fine in the long run.

“But obviously we need to get some wins.”

Howard took all the blame after Tuesday’s loss.

“(I) wasn’t good enough for the guys once again and need to be better,” Howard said. “It’s unacceptable.”

This was the first time in his career Howard was pulled from two consecutive games.

“It’s unfortunate but at the same time, like I said, I have to go out there and do my job better,” Howard said.

Trouba scored two goals for the Jets, while Andrew Ladd (power play) and Alexander Burmistrov added the others.

Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce/Walled Lake Northern) turned aside 33 shots to earn the victory.

The Red Wings had a four-minute power play when Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry high-sticked Zetterberg and drew blood 50 seconds into the game, but forced little offense on Winnipeg.

Trouba’s goal off a 3-on-2 rush while shorthanded put the Jets ahead 1-0.

The Jets had too many men on the ice shortly after the four-minute Red Wings power play expired, but the Red Wings didn’t do anything with that power play either, failing to generate any momentum.

With the Red Wings putting themselves into penalty trouble later in the period, Ladd scored his 10th goal on a two-man Jets advantage, a one-timer from the hashmarks past Howard.

“We definitely had our chances to get some momentum and some goals,” Zetterberg said. “We had a lot of good chances but that’s the way it goes sometimes. You just have to keep believing in yourself.”

Burmistrov made it 3-0 Jets with a shot from just inside the circle that went off Howard’s stick and into the net, and Trouba’s drive from just inside the blue line at 11:43 chased Howard from the net.

“We stand behind him (Howard), it’s not his fault,” Zetterberg said. “He’ll be fine the next time he plays.”